Whatever Happened to Steve Emtman, the Colts’ 1992 Draft Bust?

One of the greatest gifts an NFL team can receive is a high draft pick. Of course, a top selection can also be a burden. There’s a lot of pressure on NFL players and teams to get it right. Take, for instance, the Washington Football Team: With its 2020 first-round pick, the team took Chase Young, who looks sure to be a standout on defense for years to come. But two years ago, Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins as the next franchise quarterback. The team recently released him. 

The Indianapolis Colts once experienced the agony of a similar NFL Draft bust with defensive lineman Steve Emtman. Here’s his story and what he’s up to now. 

Why did the Indianapolis Colts draft Steve Emtman? 

Hindsight is 20/20, and it’s easy to look back and retroactively forecast what the Indianapolis Colts should have done instead of picking Emtman, one of history’s most famous draft busts. But the fact of the matter was that Emtman was very good. He was coming off a legendary career at the University of Washington, where he was arguably one of the greatest college football defensive linemen of all time. 

When 1992 rolled around, the Colts took Emtman with their top pick to solidify their defensive line. Keep in mind this era was pre-Peyton Manning, and the Colts of the early ’90s were devoid of top talent and had many holes to fill. Selecting Emtman was one way to improve at rushing the quarterback. It was hard to question the pick at the time because Emtman had shown his ability at the college level. But his skill set wouldn’t quite translate professionally, especially after the injury bug hit him. 

Emtman’s unfortunate pro football career

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It’s hard to tell exactly what went wrong with Emtman at the next level. But whereas some picks go on to enjoy Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame careers, the same could not be said for Emtman. He struggled mightily in the NFL, where he battled injuries during pretty much his entire pro career. 

According to ClutchPoints, Emtman hurt his knee in his rookie season. After that setback, only more problems followed. In his second season, he suffered a horrific neck injury that rupturing a disc. He soldiered on for three additional games before he was finally forced to sit yet again.

Emtman played one more season with the Colts before the team cut him. His final tally for in Indy included 18 games played, five sacks, and 121 tackles. Those are hardly the stats one would expect from a first-round draft choice. He played a few more seasons, trying to hang on with teams such as Washington, San Francisco, and Miami, but he could never recapture the success of his college days.  

What is he up to now? 

Spotrac reported that in six NFL seasons, Emtman made about $8.8 million. That pales in comparison to what today’s first-round picks make during their careers, but it’s not a small amount of money. Apparently, Emtman parlayed his winnings into a successful business. 

Emtman’s post-NFL career has been much more successful than his time playing football. Former ESPN college football writer Pat Forde reported in one of his columns that Emtman had a prosperous real estate career following his playing days, living in eastern Washington state near the town where he grew up. He was also an assistant coach for a Washington-area arena league team. 

Emtman may not have had the best NFL career, but he clearly didn’t let his issues there stop him from leading a fulfilling life after football.